Jackpot Roping, held Saturday, April 4, marked one of many events held at the Clovis Rodeo Grounds leading up to the 101st Clovis Rodeo stretching from April 23 to 26.
The roping event kicked off bright and early, 8 a.m. to be precise, but from the get-go you could tell the teams were ready to lasso some steers.
For those who are interested, but are unaware of how team roping works, here’s a breakdown of the sport: each team consists of two ropers who sit on horseback along a metal chute that releases a steer.
The objective is to race after the steer and lasso its head and back legs, all while being timed. Both team members are usually timed separately because teams are switched around between rounds, but the theory remains the same, the roper with the fastest time catching three steers wins.
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In this case, the winners would get a small sum of money that ropers put into a pot. First-place winners got something a bit more coveted — a custom belt buckle awarded by the Clovis Rodeo Association.
For Flint Sweet, the jackpot roping event definitely did not end bitterly. Sweet walked away with two buckles in what would be considered the mid-level of roping.
“To win one [buckle] is great, but two is amazing,” said Sweet. “It doesn’t happen very often. I had a good day, thanks in part to my headers and stuff too. You can’t do it all by yourself.”
When asked what goes through one’s mind as they chase after a steer on horseback, all Sweet said was that you are not really thinking about anything else but that steer.
“I’m just thinking about what I got to do on hand,” said Sweet. “You get really, really nervous. It’s a good adrenaline rush.”
Sweet said that he has been roping for many years, but he is always learning new things and meeting new people.
“As long as all the arenas stay open, I’m going to keep on roping,” Sweet said. “It’s a very expensive hobby, but once you get started it’s really incredible.”
While cowboys were stomping around the arena, in the audience was actor and team roper James Pickens Jr. Television fans may recognize him as Dr. Richard Webber from the popular medical drama, “Grey’s Anatomy.”
Pickens is an avid roper and has been a general lover of the western lifestyle since he was a child.
“I’m a child of the ’50s, so I watched all of the westerns back then, I think we only had three channels, but each channel must’ve had 20 westerns on,” said Pickens. “My dad and brother and I would always try to watch all of them. And the horse was always my favorite animal.”
Being his favorite animal, Pickens did not pass up a chance to get his very own horse when the opportunity arose.
“When I came out to California about 25 years ago, I was able to get involved with my first horse,” said Pickens. “I started out team penning and trail riding and I wanted to move up to something with a little more of an adrenaline rush. So I started team roping. I’ve been a big, big fan of it ever since.”
His visit was not strictly for leisure though. Pickens will hold the Sixth Annual James Pickens, Jr. Foundation Charity Roping Event at 8 a.m., April 21 at the Clovis Rodeo grounds, and he wanted to get a feel for the venue before the big day.
“We had been holding our rodeo — our roping down in Southern California in Lebec, about an hour north of Los Angeles,” said Pickens. “And after last year’s event, one of the gentlemen who actually supplied our livestock, Sam Habib, has a relationship up here in Clovis.
“He approached me and said, ‘I really like what you all are doing, what do you think about moving your deal up to Clovis?’ We talked about it. They presented it to the Clovis Committee and they came back and said, ‘Let’s do it. It sounds like a great partnership.’ ”
But in the end, all Pickens wanted do was encourage people who are interested to come out and support the competitors that he felt deserved it.
“Just come out to see the best cowboys in the world,” said Pickens. “Come out and get a chance to see a bit of the western lifestyle — what it might have been like a hundred years ago when the sport evolved from actual ranch work.
“So if you’re a fan of the western lifestyle, this is the deal. Come out, watch it, you’ll love it.”